Wednesday, 19 November 2003

Abidjan (Fides Service) – Tension is rising in Ivory Coast where New Forces rebels have declared a state of emergency fearing an attack by the regular army. “This tension probably rises from a misinterpretation of what was said by the Defence Minister during a memorial ceremony for victims of the civil war” a missionary in Bouake told Fides. Bouake is the main city in northern Ivory Coast under rebel control. “The rebels have alerted their troops but here in the city life goes on as usual and there are no signs of any special security measures”.
“This episode demonstrates anyway that the situation in Ivory Coast is explosive; a simple misunderstanding can light the fuse” the missionary told Fides. “I am confident however that reason will prevail. I feel that both sides now realise that war is an evil that must be avoided. The deaths and destruction of the past months are a warning to all”.
While denying that it is preparing an offensive in rebel territory, the army says it is ready to take action should the rebels break the truce. For their part New Forces gave a demonstration of force parading a truck convoy through the streets of Bouake carrying heavy weapons including anti- aircraft canons and anti-tank missile launchers.
Prime Minister Seydou Diarra has said he will meet rebel leaders soon in Accra in Ghana in a bid to end the situation of stall in Ivory Coast.
“The fact that the country is divided into two is hard on the people, especially those in rebel controlled areas” the missionary told Fides. “Markets display plenty of food but people have no money to spend. Unemployment is widespread and people make do as best they can. But with no wages paid for months and no work, we fear that many will soon begin to die of hunger. An absurd condition due not to famine but to unequal distribution of riches”.
In this context, the news that Giovanni Bonomo, a dangerous Italian Mafia boss was in Ivory Coast before being arrested in Senegal is most concerning. Bonomo, extradited from Italy, is suspected of recycling Mafia money in Namibia and South Africa. “No one knows what a person of this nature could be doing in Ivory Coast” the missionary said “however it is no surprise to see infiltration of international organised crime in places where the state is weak. It is enough to think of the arms trafficking necessary to feed this forgotten war”. (L.M.) (Fides Service 19/11/2003 lines 37 words 484)